Mass on Wednesday of the 4th Week of Lent

What a moving formulary for Holy Mass in the older form today.

I am not usually the emotional type when saying Mass.  I really wish that "priestcraft" wasn’t a negative word, because I think priests should firstly attend to their business during Mass, the craft of being a priest at the altar, especially in a parish setting.

But today, in the special format of today’s Mass, something grabbed and shook me.

There is, oddly enough, an extra reading and prayers in today’s formulary for Mass in the Extraordinary Form.  Why is today’s Mass different?  In history today was the day when catechumens had a special stage in their march toward baptism.. at St. Paul’s outside-the-walls.  The catechumens would be allowed in to the church today.  They heard the readings, all about baptism.  The priest put salt in their mouths, a symbol of wisdom.  And then they left, with this anticipation of their own baptism.

The Gospel is about the Lord curing the man born blind.

At the end of the Gospel we hear:

They [the pharisees] answered and said to him [the blind man, who told them what happened], Thou wast wholly born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out. Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, “Dost thou believe in the Son of God?” He answered and said, Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him? And Jesus said to him, “Thou hast both seen Him, and it is He that talketh with thee.” And he said, I believe, Lord: (Here all kneel down) and falling down he adored Him.

The Lord went and found him once He heard how he had been treated.

The man adored him.

"I will take the stony heart out of your flesh."

"I went, I washed, and now I see."

Simple phrases.

During Holy Mass you encounter mystery in this moment of the Gospel kneeling, sudden, out of place in Mass.  Unexpected.

I am not usually sentimental in my celebration of Mass, but today this choked me completely.

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17 Responses to Mass on Wednesday of the 4th Week of Lent

  1. Denis Crnkovic says:

    I respectfully beg to differ, Father. When the Eastern fathers speak of praying for the gift of tears, it is precisel what you describe that they are talking about: the ability to be so overwhelmed by our connexions to the greater Reality that we cannot help but get choked up.

  2. I often get choked up at Mass. A priest once told me that being an Italian guy – it’s not my fault; I’m predisposed. : ) (He was being facetious, of course.)

    “The Lord went and found him once He heard how he had been treated.”

    I agree, Fr. Z, this is touching. It says a lot about our Lord’s solicitousness and love for us.

    One of my favorite lines from Sacred Scripture, one that I find incredibly moving, is very similar. It comes from Genesis 3:9 But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”

    This after the man had sinned against Him. Amazing.

  3. Roland de Chanson says:

    Fr. Z: I am not usually sentimental in my celebration of Mass, but today this choked me completely.

    You are a good priest. Benedicat te Dominus.

  4. bwjb says:

    The passage about the man born blind never fails to move me (at least internally). As a layperson, I’m not one to get choked up during Mass either (or anywhere really), but those special moments when the gift of tears comes are all the more special because of it.

    And that’s a very beautiful tradition with the catechumens. Sigh. One day we will recover all of the riches of our sacred calendar…

  5. Blackfriar says:

    Regarding the giving of salt: it’s a pity this symbol (salt) is rarely (in my experience) used in the blessing of holy water at Mass in the Paul VI rite, and has disappeared too from the baptism liturgy. However, readers may be interested to know that the bishops of Papua New Guinea have retained it in the baptismal rite here, albeit as an option. Here is the text from the Ritual for those who can manage Pidgin English (or tok Pisin, as they say here). this follows the anointing with the Oil of Catechumens:

    BLESIM NA GIVIM SOL
    Long planti ples sol i gat bikpela namba na mining. Long ol dispela ples pris i ken (blesim na) givim sol long pikinini, sapos em i laik.

    God Papa, mipela i askim yu,
    blesim + dispela sol
    ma mekim em i kamap holi,
    bai em i marasin tru bilong ol pikinini
    i kisim dispela sol,
    na lukautim ol long helpim bilong Holi Spirit.
    Long nem bilong Krais, em i Bikpela bilong mipela. Amen.

    Nau pris i putim liklik sol long tang bilong pikinini:

    N., kisim dispela sol,
    em i mak bilong save wanem samting i stret,
    na wanem samting i rong long ai bilong God.
    dispela sol i ken helpim yu
    long rot i go long Papa.

  6. I was moved to tears as a reader in January 25, 2009. I was reading Acts 22, an account of the conversion of St. Paul, and as I neared the final verse, I was getting choked up, and I had tears running down my face as I read “Now, why delay? Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away, calling upon his name.”

    The joke was on me, though, if anyone recalls what the SECOND Reading that day was. ;)

  7. deborah-anne says:

    Father this is a good illustration of fully conscious and active participation in Holy Mass showing it is not a matter of just doing things, but rather participation in nothing less than sacred mystery. You were drawn into that mystical ‘moment’ which was nothing less than the saving action of Jesus Christ Himself. What a blessing! So happy you shared this experience.

  8. moon1234 says:

    Tonight was our CCD confessions as a group. I was reading todays EF prayers and I was very choked up. The readings were so appropriate. I couldn’t wait and read St. Joseph’s prayers for tomorrow. I also taught about St. Patrick in class seeing as it was his feast day. How wonderful the old calendar is. Everything is beautifully tied together.

  9. AnnaTrad51 says:

    Amen to that moon1234

  10. rinkevichjm says:

    Heard this gospel last Sunday when the Catechumens were in for the 2nd scrutiny [it's actually a cycle A reading] Only the salt and kneeling have been removed.

  11. moon1234 says:

    Ahh yes, but the theological/patrimonial meaning of today’s day and date have been lost by the move to a different day/date. And where, may I ask, do actual Catechumens come in for second scrutiny? I have never heard of anything so traditional happing at a Novus Ordo parish. The BEST I have ever seen is the “RCIA Candidates” show up to Mass a few times before being “received” into the Church on Easter. Not trying to be snarky, just wondering where somthing like this actually happens.

  12. Mariana says:

    I have often wondered how priests are at all able to celebrate Mass dry-eyed and un-choked!

    I think I read that St. Ignatius wept copiously through entire Masses, I think that is beautiful. Though perhaps not useful in a parish setting : ).

  13. Tom in NY says:

    Aside from Moses, those who saw the Deity in the Hebrew scriptures felt in fear of their lives – as did Moses the first time. See also the beginning of Isaiah 6. Perhaps it’s the realization of the power of your links to the rest of the faithful present, a bit of fear as the prophets had at their call, and the realization that the Lord’s power has lifted you — the three together can move you to tears.

    Don’t forget “pisteuein” and “credere” can mean to trust as well as to believe. The former is in the original in John 9 and the Vulgate uses the latter.

    I don’t think this miracle is in the other three Gospels. Note that the cured man visits “the Pharisees,” not priests, as would a cured leper. He even risked being cut off from community to speak up to the Observant (v. 27); perhaps his physical blindness had led him to think he could do without. When he sees, he is drawn to the Master. As to those Observant fellows…

    Salutationes omnibus.

  14. Bornacatholic says:

    In history today was the day when catechumens had a special stage in their march toward baptism.. at St. Paul’s outside-the-walls.

    Amen, Fr. I am fortunate enough to own the complete set of Dom Gueranger’s, “The Liturgical Year.”

    The lengthy explanation of this day in Lent, “Feria of the great scrutiny” is absolutely fascinating and inspiriting.

    If any Catholic can scrape-up the money to but this collection he will not be disappointed. It is positively first-rate and crammed Sardine-Tin-Tight with Ecclesiastical History and Orthopraxis that will spark your intellect, delight your soul, and warm your heart.

    There is a downside to the collection though. It will make you realise just how much we have allowed to be renewed out of existence.

    Today, try to even imagine a Deacon (as they did back in the day) ascending to the Ambo and alerting the Catechumens, “Be silent: hear attentively!” as they had parts of all the Gospels read to them; and The Symbol (Creed) explained to them; and the Our Father explained to them etc etc etc

  15. irishgirl says:

    I didn’t know that we kneel down at the words, ‘I believe, Lord’. I’ll have to look at my Missal when I go home later today and see if that’s written in the text.

    What a good priest you are, Father Z-I remember you by name when I offer my daily Rosary intentions. Even though I have never met you, you’re one of my favorite priests!

    What great riches there are in the EF!

  16. maynardus says:

    “I have never heard of anything so traditional happing at a Novus Ordo parish. The BEST I have ever seen is the “RCIA Candidates” show up to Mass a few times before being “received” into the Church on Easter. Not trying to be snarky, just wondering where somthing like this actually happens.”

    In theory (thanks to Summorum Pontificum) any pastor could decide to use the “old” liturgies when receiving catechumens. Fr. Santos at Holy Name in Providence did this with a large group of catechumens the year before last and it was very well received. My wife, who had to endure the “standard” R.C.I.A. nine years ago, was almost jealous!